Guitar (and bass) geeks: Perfect pickups!

Premier Guitar has a story hereabout a new development in pickups.

Basically, old pickups had a ton of issues mainly in that they aren’t consistent due to winding issues and other production methods as well as raw material differences.

So a company came up with the idea of printing the coils like circuit boards. They then take those printed coils, stack 48 of them and then a spacer then another stack of 48. They then use supercharged magnets that have been demagnitized in a controlled manner.

The pickup that comes out is perfectly flat in response. So they added a pre-amp that allows you to pick a pickup profile, from a hot humbucker to a vintage strat. Additionally, the single coils don’t hum.

There seems to be some drawbacks, depending on how you look at things. Apparently the new pickups don’t lose frequencies with volume control. In other words, backing off the volume doesn’t kill the high end freq’s. Since many players adjust tone by backing off volume some may not like it all that much. Though they claim that you don’t lose any freq’s even if you have a 100 foot cable, thanks to the pre-amp.

Another drawback is that you have to have an onboard battery. Though the makers claim a 250 hour lifespan on the battery.

I can’t wait to try these out, though I won’t be pulling the pups out of 1960 Les Paul anytime soon…


I’m not a player and everything I know about pickups is from watching a video on YouTube with Nels Cline and Seymour Duncan. I take it that these new pickups will, with proper processing, be able to mimic existing pickups (to varying degrees of success I presume). I also expect that they will be able to do things that have not been heard of to date and people will experiment and we’ll be hearing some new sounds in the near future. Looking forward to it, even though it will probable need to be pointed out and explained to me.

I don’t want to confirm that guitarists are mostly stick-in-the-mud conservatives when it comes to equipment, but I don’t really see how this is much different from any other active pickup/preamp setup, other than they claim their pickups are better because they have a flatter tone response.

I’ve never heard an active guitar or bass that I liked the tone of, so I’m going to have to wait and see on this one.

Christ, a three page article with pictures, tone charts, spectrographic responses, etc, about a cool new pickup… and not one sound sample? Not one?

Well, they claim they can make it sound like any pickup, so just imagine what you want it to sound like, and it can do that.

Ok, I’m probably being too sarcastic about them at this point. I’ll shut up.

The thing that i got was that they are going to be marketing one thing above all else: consistency. With their design they are eliminating flaws and/or variations in wire gauge, winds, etc. Each and every pickup will be exactly like every other pickup, so they can lay claim to consistency, confirmation of consumer expectations, dependability, etc.

Sounds like it might be a good idea, but like many (most?) players, I hate active pickups. I’ve heard some excellent bass guitars with active pickups, but in general they are a drag IMO.

These seem to be for lack of a better term “modeling” pickups. I can see some company going over the top and building a guitar with these pickups and, adding an on-board CPU to make endless combinations of pickup choices. Maybe even add a small display and a joystick. :slight_smile:

Aye, you’d totally be able to do that with these pickups.

I understand that, and with their claim of getting a “flat” response, it is interesting. However, the whole promise of low impedance pickups and a preamp was that they gave a wider frequency response and you could remove the frequencies you didn’t want with the preamp.

And we agree here, the whole active pickup idea, which is essentially a low impedance pickup with a preamp and EQ, wasn’t exactly what everyone was looking for. I don’t even like it on bass, while I can understand why some styles love it. I see it as: You can eliminate the frequencies you don’t want and accentuate the ones you do, but you can’t exactly duplicate the response of your favorite pickup. It’s a similar situation to how I feel about modeling amps: They can sound very nice, and respond like a lot of amps, but to pretend that they give the responsiveness of an non-master volume class A amp doesn’t seem true to me.

On top of that, this type of pickup design looks like it would do a great job of eliminating the microphonic aspects of some pickups, which is in the character of some designs. With most of my guitars, with high gain, you can yell into the pickups and understand what you are saying. Maybe they can imitate that with their modeling software, but I doubt it. The sounds made by the wood being picked up microphonically are different from the sounds made by the string interacting with the magnetic field. Despite a recent disagreement I had on the board, I do think the microphonic aspects of a guitar’s pickups greatly affect the sound of the instrument.

I don’t doubt that this system will be an answered prayer for a lot of guitarists. EMG’s long history alone proves there’s a market for a hi-fi sound. But to pretend that it’s the “perfect pickup” (or that there could be one for everyone) is kind of silly. It really seems just like an evolutionary step in active pickups, to me.

Now, I’ve been horribly stupid and wrong in the past, so there’s at least an even chance that is the case this time. Heck, this month I bought a reverb pedal based on demos on the internet that I hated when I tried it at home. I’ve also heard very nice demos of modeling amps that just didn’t react like an amp without master volume, no matter how nice they sounded in real life. So, at the next guitar show, I’ll be listening very closely to anyone demonstrating this system. Until then, I’m not going to hold my breath.

Ok, I swear my rant is probably close to completely expended until I actually play one of these set-ups. Sorry if it seems acerbic, but I’ve been bewildered by the attraction of active setups for years.

I just don’t see this happening with the guitar players I know and work with. No way in hell is Matt going to pull his originals out of the 61’ strat and put these in, no matter what they sound like or their awesome hum cancelling characteristics. I cannot think of a single guitar player I know who would be interested, at all.

I can see them being used by bass players, I might even try them if I had a spare and toneless stick but I like my 30yo Ibanez with actives so what do I know.

IMO Fishman makes passable but kinda bland electronics, this seems like more of the same.


I don’t see anyone refitting an existing guitar with these, but I could see the attraction of developing a new line of guitars with them.

As I indicated earlier, the marketing angles are easy to see because they are inherent parts of the design and philosophy behind the pickups. Your guitar would be identical to your guitar hero’s guitar. No more tracking down authentic pickups made in April of 1963 (“no, not the ones from May; they sound like crap!”) in Cleveland (not the ones from Detroi; they sound tinny!") etc. for that “certain” sound. Now it would simply be a matter of having the right plug-in for your pre-amps modeling and really all it would be is the right data set and equations, and once we have that it’s fairly easy to reproduce that on a phone app or pro recording software, etc. Hell, I don’t even need my amp to record, really, since Logic has amps and effects built in that I can use, for instance.

And if the guitar looks good and plays well, it’ll sell and if it sells enough, maybe it’ll become as standard as a Tele or a Strat or a Les Paul and 30 years from now we’ll all be saying damn those are some good pickups as we drive to our next gig in our flying cars while taking our food pills.

Agreed about the future guitarists but all the “tone purists” I know won’t touch them with someone else’s axe. Their OCD about gear can be quite vexing but you learn to live with it…

“My NOS Mallard Valves, matched pair of 12AX7s, really drive the pre section of my Balckface Super in a way the matched pair of Slovtek Gs never could.”


I love my job but there a many reasons not to get into the production side of things, this is but one…



I know next to nothing about the innards of electrics, but since I’ve once again started playing and taking lessons at age 66, and since I’m planning on ordering a strat kit once I get my workbench finished, I might just be the guinea pig you all are looking for to give these a shot.

If you don’t mind a side question: I presently own a strat-style electric that was made by somebody local (not a brand name). The high ‘E’ string has a tendency to produce a nasty buzz when plucked. It sounds–more than anything else–like what you hear when somebody plucks a sitar string. Any ideas why or what I can do to make it stop? Yeah, I know: quit plucking it.

Hey, I know [del]that[/del]those guys too!

Chefguy, I am prolly wrong but it could be that the nut is cut a little too deeply or the bridge isn’t set right; those would be my guesses but I am not a luthier.

Modeling sounds about right.

Listen - Art happens when Artist interacts with Tool. Many electric guitarists today take advantage of the feedback we get from tube amps, inefficient pickups and tweaking our knobs ;). Many others user modeling amps, software and other approaches to get the sound they want. YMMV.

This new pickup would require a different approach - you would paint with it differently. Would the Art be worth it? Meh - for some players, definitely. Not for me.

Sounds like your guitar needs some setup work. You may need a trussrod adjustment but first I would start at the saddles. What is happening here is your high E is slightly rubbing against the frets, atleast that is what it sounds like over the internet. So here we go…

Most strat style guitars have six saddles on the bridge, one for each string, usually these have two screws each, either hex or flat head(usually). If your strat does not the same basic jist applies.

Using the adjustment screws, raise the saddle just a bit til the buzz stops.

Fret the E string on each fret and check that it is free from buzz the entire length of the neck, if not raise it a wee bit more until it does not buzz at all.

Here is where you can run into new problems…

  1. You may have to adjust the intonation, that is make sure that the open E and the E at the 12th fret are in tune with each other. This is done by moving the saddle back and forth. Tune the open E and fret at 12, if the note is flat move the saddle in abit, if sharp out a bit. Repeat until close to perfect, a few cents off is ok IMHO. You must tune the open string with each adjustment.

  2. You may have to raise the high E until it is seriously out of line with the other strings. This leaves you with adjusting the saddle height of the rest of the strings or a trussrod adjustment or both. This is probably where you want someone who knows what they are doing as the geometry can get really wacky. I would take it a shop and have a pro set it up unless you are really brave.

Just a small addition, if it buzzes acoustically but it is not heard through the amp, I would not worry about it, YMMV, if it annoys you fix it.

If you need further clarification on this I am happy to help.


Bo brought up what I forgot, check to make sure the nut is not overly worn

Good advice, guys.

AHA! Your toss-away comment may save me a lot of money. I mainly hear it when the amp is off and I’m noodling.

Just like there is no perfect woman (or man), there is no perfect pickup. Furthermore, I’d bet dollars to donuts these pickups won’t even begin to satisfy the typical tone freak. Don’t even use the word “modeling” to these guys. I’d scoff at them, but I’ve heard what they can make a guitar do and I have to respect their sensibilities.

Oops, the “typical tone freak” is probably a fraud. But I’m talking about truly gifted players I know, personally or by reputation, who bring home the goodies tone-wise, and swear by pickups that are hand wound, because perfectly-wound pickups sound all wrong!

I know (and have played on stage with) one guy for example, who is an inductee into the Musician’s Hall of Fame as one of the Muscle Shoals crowd, toured with famous musicians, etc. Now, most guitarists I know are too loud. This guy is actually louder than many of them, but it never sounds that way, because he’s so controlled and so tasteful that it’s sweet and he makes every other musician on the stage sound better (even us mediocre ones). So, when he says something about the special nature of 50’s telecaster pickups, I really have to give him credit for knowing way more about what he’s talking about than I ever will.

That said, I’d probably enjoy pickups like these. I do love my '65 Jazzmaster’s wide pups, but I sure do hate the way they buzz (far more than strat or tele pups, since they’re shallow and wide). If someone could make a pup that sounds 90% like these but without the buzz, I’d love it.

I’d put 'em in a new guitar, though. Even though my '65 has been too much fiddled with to ever be a collector’s item.

See if you can figure out whether it’s just the string buzzing, or if the buzz is coming from (or being amplified by) anything else in the guitar. I’ve had cases where machine heads would resonate with a buzz, and I was much happier with those machine heads replaced.

But most likely, it’s just “normal” E-string buzz, especially if you use very light strings and have a very low action. I’ve played some guitars of some very gifted players, set up very nicely, and that sound lovely in their hands on stage, but which had a bit of E-string buzz in a quiet room. So, I suspect it’s “normal”.

Another cause can be in the nut, and if so, any good tech should be able to tell you if it’s that and fix it in a jiffy (possibly even for free, if you’re having other work done). For example, one common cause is if the nut isn’t cut right, so the string is “fretted” at the machine head side of the nut, and the groove slants slightly down toward the bridge. The quick fix is to deepen the groove on the machine head side so that it “frets” against the other edge of the nut.

I highly recommend you pay whatever it is these days, probably $75, to have a good technician do a quick action/intonation adjustment and lookover. A good tech will also note any other minor things that need to be fixed and there are so many that take only a moment. I know how to do a lot of work on my own guitars, but I’m still amazed at how much better a guitar feels after a trip to the shop.

You can tell the gifted pros: they’re the ones all the local pro players use, so if you’re an amateur, you don’t get your guitar back very quickly, but it’s worth it. (Good reason to have another guitar!)

If nothing else, the advice you can get when they hand it back is often worth the cost of the job.